Greg Biffle leads final Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — With a glimmer of hope during a tough season, Greg Biffle paced the final practice session for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, posting a 197.929 mph in his No. 16 Ford.

Biffle made 28 laps, more than any of the other 37 drivers who participated in the second of two practices Friday. Speeds dropped significantly from the first session (which Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led as one of three to top 200 mph) as drivers focused on taking laps by themselves rather than drafting in large groups.

Biffle said he posted his fast lap by briefly running in a draft early in the session.

“It looks like we’re about top five in qualifying trim, so we’re excited about a top-10 starting spot,” said the Roush Fenway Racing driver, who is 21st in points with one top 10 — a 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500. “This is the first time we’ve been fastest in practice all year and have a decent qualifying speed.  That’s a little confidence-builder for us this weekend, but we would certainly like to find that kind of speed every week.  This is a little bit different because it’s restrictor plates.  These cars haven’t changed in four years.  It’s the same car, and we’re pretty decent at it.”

Saturday’s qualifying (which will take place at 1:15 p.m. ET) will mark the return of a mostly single-car format after group qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks prompted a chorus of groans from drivers and teams about its unfair nature.

“I’m really happy with the way they changed qualifying because it’s the speed of the car,” Biffle said. “It’s not who got the lucky lane or who got a draft or who laid back so far and got sucked up on a big run.  For this type of racing, we need to probably do this kind of qualifying.”

Results from Friday’s final practice:

1 Greg Biffle … 197.929 mph … 22 laps

2 Tony Stewart … 197.859 … 20 laps

3 Aric Almirola … 197.696 … 10 laps

4 Jimmie Johnson … 197.175 … 18 laps

5 Austin Dillon … 197.122 … 18 laps

6 Matt Kenseth … 196.839 … 18 laps

7 David Ragan … 196.669 … 14 laps

8 Sam Hornish Jr. … 194.603 … 11 laps

9 Casey Mears … 194.456 … 8 laps

10 Brian Scott … 193.881 … 8 laps

11 Ryan Blaney … 193.541 … 14 laps

12 Jeff Gordon … 193.322 … 2 laps

13 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 193.135 … 13 laps

14 Brad Keselowski … 192.858 … 17 laps

15 Jamie McMurray … 192.796 … 7 laps

16 Kevin Harvick … 192.719 … 11 laps

17 Kyle Larson … 192.502 … 8 laps

18 Danica Patrick … 192.440 … 14 laps

19 Kurt Busch … 192.085 … 17 laps

20 Paul Menard … 192.027 … 10 laps

21 Trevor Bayne … 191.965 … 8 laps

22 Joey Logano … 191.631 … 7 laps

23 Landon Cassill … 191.290 … 5 laps

24 David Gilliland … 191.210 … 8 laps

25 Kasey Kahne … 190.974 … 2 laps

26 Chris Buescher … 190.666 … 8 laps

27 Michael Annett … 190.393 … 11 laps

28 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 190.249 … 13 laps

29 Cole Whitt … 190.196 … 5 laps

30 Michael McDowell … 190.008 … 8 laps

31 Justin Allgaier … 189.815 … 8 laps

32 Josh Wise … 189.597 … 8 laps

33 Bobby Labonte … 189.567 … 11 laps

34 Alex Bowman … 189.522 … 2 laps

35 Brendan Gaughan … 189.185 … 5 laps

36 Matt DiBenedetto … 189.081 … 5 laps

37 JJ Yeley … 188.500 … 5 laps

38 Jeb Burton … 187.335 … 5 laps

Best 10 consecutive laps average:

1 Greg Biffle … 195.312

2 Tony Stewart … 195.259

3 Matt Kenseth … 195.098

4 Austin Dillon … 195.051

5 Jimmie Johnson … 195.045

6 David Ragan … 182.432

7 Aric Almirola … 176.804

 

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kansas preview, Kevin Meendering interview

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to preview this weekend’s races at Kansas Speedway.

Marty Snider hosts with Steve Letarte and Landon Cassill from Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll react to the penalty handed down to Kyle Larson that makes advancing to the Round of 8 even more challenging.
  • As cut-down day approaches in the Round of 12 for the Cup Series, we’ll look back at drivers who kept their title hopes alive with victories in elimination races.
  • Dillon Welch talks to crew chief Kevin Meendering, who is set to become Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief in 2019.
  • Joey Logano may be racing for a championship, but one of his other main goals is a far more important one: helping the lives of others, especially children. We’ll look at the story behind the Joey Logano Foundation.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Bubba Wallace named to Ebony Power 100

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Bubba Wallace has been named to Ebony Magazine’s Ebony Power 100 for his accomplishments as a NASCAR Cup series driver.

Listed as an “MVP,” Wallace joins other athletes such as Antonio Brown, Stephen Curry and Venus Williams as well as former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. 

The list was created to recognize leaders of color who have positively impacted their community.

“This is quite an honor to be recognized with others in the African-American community,” Wallace said in a press release. “It’s humbling to join a list of the other star athletes, artists and community and national leaders. I’m just trying to be the best driver that I can be and focus on winning races for Richard Petty Motorsports and our partners. To be recognized for some of our accomplishments this season is an honor and I’d like to thank Ebony for the recognition.”

Wallace gained the honor based on his on track performance early in the year, including a second-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a top-10 finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

His off-track accomplishments also played a role in the selection. Wallace has been a notable influencer on social media. Earlier this year, Facebook posted a “Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace” docu-series that earned more than five million views.

“We are proud of what Bubba is doing both on and off the track for our race team and our partners,” said Brian Moffitt, CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports, in a press release. “We know that we have something very special with him and he continues to break barriers outside our sport to be a first-class athlete, spokesperson and inspiration to many.”

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K&N East champion to make Truck Series debut at Martinsville

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Tyler Ankrum, who won the NASCAR K&N East Pro Series title on Oct. 6, will make his Camping World Truck Series debut next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Ankrum, 17, will drive for DGR-Crosley’s No. 54 truck. Ankrum drove for the team co-owned by David Gilliland in the K&N East series.

Driving the No. 17, Ankrum earned four wins and nine top fives and led the standings for the final 12 races of the season.

The native of San Bernadino, California, had an average finish of 4.8.

Next Saturday’s race will be Ankrum’s second at Martinsville. He competed in a Late Model Stock Car race there in 2014.

“Making my Truck Series debut at Martinsville is huge. So many big names in the sport have made their national series debut at Martinsville,” Ankrum said in a press release. “I’ve been dreaming of this day for so long now, I can’t believe it’s actually happening. It’s going to be really cool having (crew chief) Seth (Smith) and my K&N guys there with me.”

Kyle Larson loses 10 points, car chief suspended for Talladega penalty

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Kyle Larson‘s Cup team has been penalized 10 driver and owner points and loses car chief David Bryant to a one-race suspension for a L1 penalty at Talladega Superspeedway.

Crew chief Chad Johnston was also fined $25,000.

The No. 42 team violated Section 10.9.9.d in the rulebook, which notes “Damaged vehicle repair, regardless of how the damage occurred, is permitted to have original body parts removed or reattached in their original location with fasteners and/or tape only.”

Larson spun with seven laps left in Stage 2 due to a flat tire.

Larson, who finished 11th in Sunday’s race and called it “embarrassing at times”, is now 36 points behind the cutoff spot on the playoff grid, making this weekend’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway a must win for Larson.

This is Bryant’s second suspension this season. He missed two races in May for a rear-window violation at Kansas.

NBC Sports has asked Chip Ganassi Racing if it will appeal;there was no immediate response from the team.

John Klausmeier, crew chief on Aric Almirola‘s No. 10 Ford, was fined $10,000 for an unsecured lug nut on the race-winning car.

NASCAR also issued three fines to crew chiefs in the Camping World Truck Series for the same L1 penalty.

Chad Kendrick (Austin Hill‘s No. 02 Chevrolet), Graham Bruce (Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet) and Joel Shear Jr. (Johnny Sauter‘s No. 21 Chevrolet) were fined $5,000 for violating Section 20.4, which notes “Air is not allowed to pass from one area of the interior of the vehicle to another or to the outside of the vehicle.”

NASCAR also issued an indefinite suspension to Christopher Justin Chase for violating Sections 12.1.a and 2.11.a in the rulebook, a behavioral level violation.